101: Rules

on November 20, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Sex Is Glossed Over To Get To Story

I woke up feeling pretty good, if for no other reason than I’d fallen asleep feeling that way. Amaranth had sent me to shower after we’d finished. When I came back, she’d been on the bed, awaiting my arrival before she pulled the covers over herself. I climbed in with her as physically clean as I could possibly be, and drifted off to sleep in her arms mostly untroubled by guilt.

I woke up in the same state, and enjoyed several minutes of loving embraces and sweet, wonderful, real, on-the-mouth kissing. It was as close to heaven as I was likely to see. It didn’t matter what uses I put my mouth to or where it had been… Amaranth had nothing to fear.

She met Ian at the door as she left. If I looked anything like he did when I got all flustered and spluttery, I could almost see why Amaranth and Steff thought I was so cute.

His inability to frame a sentence did nothing to hinder his part of the deed, though. When we finished, I excused myself to brush my teeth. As I came back into the room, he hastily dropped my Sci-Force Five trade paperback on the desk where he’d found it, looking guilty. I snorted, but said nothing.

Ian finished dressing and we headed out into the hall. I went to knock on Two’s door to see if she was ready for breakfast, but to my surprise, it opened before I was even in reach of it… and Amaranth stood in the doorway, her golden hair and creamy, lightly tanned skin standing out against the perpetual blackness which Dee preferred and Two seemed not to mind.

“Stay back!” Amaranth said, her commanding voice halting me in my tracks.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, alarmed.

“Well… Twoey had a little accident in the night,” she said.

“She’s not hurt, is she?” I asked.

“Did she wet the bed?” Ian asked.

I glared at him, then asked, “She didn’t, did she?”

“Oh, no, nothing like that,” Amaranth said. “She burned herself… but not badly… and then spent the rest of the night trying to decide if her need to get healed outweighed her need to stay indoors after dark. I think the conflict’s distressed her more than the injury.”

“How did she burn herself?” I asked.

“Um… I really don’t know,” Amaranth said. “It must be some weird kind of magic, though, because Dee couldn’t heal it, and neither can I.”

“Why didn’t Dee send her over to the healing center?” I asked. “Or go with her? You could hardly have a better escort at night than a d… an elf of Dee’s color.”

“I only returned to my room an hour ago,” Dee’s voice said from the darkened doorway. “I immediately began expending my healing energies on her.”

“Let me see her!” I cried, stepping forward… then recoiling backwards. I felt like I’d walked into a wall covered with sandpaper.

Amaranth cringed.

“Sorry, baby,” she said. “That’s what I tried to warn you about… we’ve been throwing the divine power around in here like crazy, trying to break through whatever the spell is.”

“Won’t she tell you?” Ian asked.

“She says it’s a secret,” Amaranth said. “We’ll get her over to the healing center… I just wanted to make sure we didn’t bump into Mack in the hall, with Twoey all wrapped up in blessings.”

“We’ll go with you,” I said quickly. “Um… following at a distance.”

Amaranth shook her head.

“There’s no need,” she said. “Look, you guys go on to breakfast… we’ll catch up. Both of us. I’m sure the healers will know what’s going on and be able to clear it up.”

“But…” I started, but Amaranth held out a finger and shushed me. There was an odd, unpleasant tingle where her skin touched my lips… a lingering effect of the healing energy she’d channeled through her hands.

“Go on ahead,” Amaranth said. “We’ll catch up.”

She withdrew her finger, stepped back, and closed the door.

“Granted I don’t know her well enough, and maybe it’s just me,” Ian said as we headed down the hall together, “but I got the feeling she was holding something back from you.”

“What was it that gave it away, the guarded look in her tits?” I asked, acerbically.

“She said I could stare at them!” Ian protested. “Anyway, you do, too.”

I didn’t argue, because he was right about at least one thing.

“Demon fire,” I said. “It doesn’t heal normally, and it resists divine magic. Amaranth reads a lot… she’s probably come across that little factoid somewhere.”

“Isn’t your fire also demon fire?” Ian asked, looking at his own whole and perfect hand, which I had once burned.

“It’s diluted,” I said. “It would never have healed by itself, if for some reason you hadn’t got it healed… but that’s it for the nasty side effects.”

“Why would your golem be messing around with demon fire?” Ian asked.

I rounded on him, my fists balling themselves up and an indignant protest welling up within my throat. With an effort, I swallowed it, and took a breath.

“Two isn’t my golem,” I said, in close to my normal tone. “She isn’t anybody’s.”

“Okay, but… same question,” Ian said. “Why is she messing around with demon fire?”

“It’s probably got something to do with me,” I said. “She’s been… reading up on demons, trying to help me somehow. I don’t know. Maybe she thinks she can find a ‘cure’, or something.” I made up my mind to ask Two directly what she’d been doing… and make her take back the demon book, if I could. She was messing around with things that even experienced wizards should leave alone.

We were in for a bit of a shock when we got to the dining hall. There was a sign on an easel by the door which had once held a menu with the day’s special offerings. It now read, in big bold letters:

In order to better provide a safe and comfortable dining experience for all MU students, the following rules must be strictly observed by all dining hall patrons:

  • NO LOITERING AT THE TABLES.
  • ONE PERSON PER SEAT.
  • NO LEWD OR VULGAR CONDUCT.

“Psst,” Celia stage-whispered right behind me. I jumped in surprise. Her Pax was very good, with the barest hint of any accent, but the natural hissing sound was somewhat magnified. “Do you think they’re talking about you?”

“What do you mean?” Ian asked. “She isn’t that lewd, is she?”

“No, I am not lewd,” I said, a little coldly. “It’s the other two… I, um, didn’t eat much human food before now, so I mostly just kind of sat there the whole meal… and usually on somebody’s lap.”

I watched the barest hint of a blush steal across Ian’s face at this, and felt my own skin threatening to respond in kind. Ian and Celia presented their meal cards, and Ian gave the cashier coins for my entry, and we stepped into a dining hall that was remarkably unchanged for having been the subject of such a sweeping proclamation.

“The whole thing is so lame,” Celia said, once we’d all got our trays and sat down. “Do they really think rules targeting you are going to change anything?”

She gestured around the room. The actual problem, such as it was, was the number of visibly non-human students using the dining hall… and the reluctance of many humans to sit near them. Even if we personally never ate in the dining hall again, that one extra table we freed up would hardly matter.

“I think they must think I’m some kind of ringleader,” I said. I briefly related the impression of the dining hall situation that the students in my weapons class had relayed to me.

“How could anybody believe that?” Celia asked. “About you, I mean.”

“It’s… um… it’s actually pretty widespread,” Ian said. “I mean, people talk about you, Mackenzie… the lunchroom stuff, the lesbian stuff, threatening people and throwing fire at them…”

“I do not throw fire at people,” I said. “How did that even… wait, you didn’t go around telling people about our lab accident, did you?

“Yeah, but only to… um… everybody I know,” Ian admitted. “But, that wasn’t really a lot of people. Just the guys on my floor… and the people I have class with… and pretty much anybody who would listen.”

I stared at him.

“I hit on a girl and she set me on fire!” he protested defensively. “It seemed like a halfway decent conversation starter. Anyway, it was a mistake, and I’m paying for it.”

“How?” I asked.

“Well, for one thing, now I’ve got to keep explaining to people why I’m dating the ‘waaay psycho demon girl’ I warned them about,” Ian said, in a kind of light, off-hand manner… which dropped away as soon as the second half of his sentence registered in both our brains. “Oh, shit,” he said, suddenly very serious. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“How did you mean it?” I asked.

“In the boy’s defense, you did set him on fire,” Celia said. “Shit, what did you do right after it happened? You came here and started trashing him. Well, no, first you had naked-spanky-fun-time with your girlfriend, then you came here and started…”

“I was the injured party!” I protested.

“Yeah, he beat the shit out of your fire with his bare hands,” Celia said.

“Don’t help me,” Ian said to Celia. “Mackenzie, all I meant was, I had a bad first impression of you, and I spread that around, and now I’m the one who looks stupid.”

“Because you’re dating me,” I said. “You look stupid because you’re dating me.”

“Actually, considering she got all bent out of shape at the idea that she’d just suck your junk any time and any place you felt like it, I’d say you both look pretty stupid now,” Celia said. “Though, the hair doesn’t really help, either.”

“As if it’s any of your business, it was actually a suggestion that I would take it in the ass that set me off,” I said.

“Yeah, well, there’s a lot of school year still left ahead of us,” Celia said darkly.

“What is that supposed to mean?” I demanded.

“Look, can I just say I’m sorry?” Ian asked.

“I don’t know, can you?” I said, being sure to give the line the full weight of maturity and gravitas it deserved.

“I’m sorry, okay?” he said. “I messed up.”

“Okay,” I said, a little sulkily. I was still hurt, but didn’t see any good coming out of acting like it. We were spared any further awkward stabs at a resolution by the arrival of Amaranth.

“Where’s Two?” I asked, concerned.

“Resting,” Amaranth said. “She was up all night, you know? Oh, but she’s fine! The healers… figured out what was wrong right away, and got her all fixed up.”

“What was wrong?” I asked.

“It was complicated,” Amaranth said. “I didn’t really follow all of it, you know? I’ve got power, but I’m strictly amateur in the healing department. Anyway, did you guys see the sign?” she asked, sliding onto the bench beside me. I leaned in against her, and she put an arm around me, pulling me in as close as we could get. It was impossible to miss the avid look on Ian’s face. “One person per seat? That’s… that’s absolutely…”

She faltered, at a loss for words.

“Reasonable?” Celia supplied.

“Ooh!” Amaranth said, screwing up her face into a pout. “That’s aimed at you, baby,” she said to me. “At us. It has to be.”

“Yeah, I actually worked that out,” I said.

“Don’t be cheeky,” Amaranth said.

“Sorry, ma’am,” I said. “But, what are we going to do about it?”

“Maybe that sign will be the end of it,” Amaranth said. “I mean, people complained, and the administration has to seem like they’re doing something… so they set up a few new rules which, from a certain perspective, seem perfectly reasonable, but don’t actually restrict access to anybody.”

“Or when they realize that making up rules against one of us does nothing, they’ll make up rules against all of us,” Celia said.

“I don’t think they’d be able to do that,” Amaranth said. “It’s very easy to make the mistake of thinking that everybody’s racist, or even that the entire administration is… but there are open-minded and forward-thinking people, too. It would have to be something they could justify as not being racially motivated.”

“How about assigned seating or dining times by residence hall?” Celia said. “They could claim that’s not racist, and end up shunting Harlowe into a corner or making it so inconvenient that we all go back to eating in the basement. Separate but equal, you know?”

“Humanity’s come a long way from the days of sundown towns, lawn gnomes, and NENA signs,” Amaranth said archly.

“You know, there’s some provinces that still have a lawn gnome in every yard,” Celia countered.

“NENA?” Ian repeated.

“‘No Elves Need Apply,'” I explained. “That kind of discrimination used to be so common, that’s one reason why elvenbloods in human settlements usually ended up in some part of the sex trade… they couldn’t find legal employment.”

“But… elves and humans are allies,” Ian protested. “We have been forever… for centuries.”

“Um, I think elves might have a different idea of ‘forever’,” I pointed out. “Anyway, isn’t this all premature? I mean, we’ve all pretty much agreed that the rules so far are reasonable. We can’t really decide what we’re going to do until–I mean, unless–they take it further.”

Beside me, I heard and felt Amaranth purr happily at the qualifier I’d added in the middle.

“So, wait,” Celia said. “You actually plan on doing something?”

“Um… I guess,” I said, my throat suddenly dry. Was that what I’d said? That I’d do something? Go up against the administration? It kind of was, actually. Well, why not? That’s part of what college was about. Finding yourself. Asserting yourself. Figuring out what the hell’s right and standing up for it. “Yeah. I mean, yes. I will do something, if push comes to shove.”

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Celia said.

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that,” Amaranth said. “I really don’t think it will.”

I wasn’t about to say so in front of Celia, but I prayed to nobody in particular that she was right.


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7 Responses to “101: Rules”

  1. beappleby says:

    “Humanity’s come a long way from the days of sundown towns, lawn gnomes, and NENA signs,” Amaranth said archly.

    “You know, there’s some provinces that still have a lawn gnome in every yard,” Celia countered.

    —–

    I can’t help wondering what their version of lawn gnomes are…

    Current score: 0
    • Statues of gnomes that people put on their lawns.

      Current score: 2
    • BlackWizard says:

      I can’t help but wonder what lawn gnomes DO if you have one in your yard…

      Current score: 0
      • nobody says:

        Stand in the yard.
        The fancy, expensive ones walk around.

        Current score: 1
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    Awww, for some reason I thought (hoped) that lawn gnomes would be gnomes payed to act like statues!

    Current score: 2
  3. Chrisleech says:

    it is my understanding that lawn gnomes were supposed to ward off evil spirits, but I suppoe that in a magical world that it could also be used as a racist statement towards the shorter races

    Current score: 1
  4. Erm says:

    “In the boy’s defense, you did set him on fire,”

    That’s one of those lines that don’t really need context to be awesome.

    Current score: 6